As devastating fires continue to sweep through Australia, the Better Business Bureau reminds potential donors to be cautious of fraudulent charities and crowdfunding sites.
Thousands of crowdfunding sites usually appear after major disasters like the Australian fires, some of which are potential scams or ill-conceived fundraising projects, according to the BBB.
Donors should investigate potential charities and crowdfunding sites before they donate. Review the crowdfunding site’s procedures and conditions. Credible sites typically explain how they safeguard against fraud. Research who is behind the crowdfunding site and consider whether that individual or group legitimately represents the charitable cause. If the site shows the name of the charity it gives to, consider donating directly to that charity instead of the crowdfunding site.
The BBB said be especially cautious of sites or charities with vague descriptions of how they intend to use funds. Credible charities tell donors where their money goes, such as fire fighting activities, temporary housing for displaced families, food, medical expenses and reconstruction.
Use government resources to identify credible charities. The Australian government provides access to an online registry of credible Australian-based charities, including the Australian Red Cross, Australian Salvation Army, Nature Conversancy Australia and World Wildlife Fund Australia.
There are also a number of United States charities donating to the wildfire cause, such as the American Red Cross, Direct Relief, Global Giving, Save the Children and the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
Keep in mind that your donation may not be deductible as a charitable gift. U.S. citizens who donate to a site claiming to help a specific or named family cannot take a federal income tax deduction, according to the BBB. Conversely, if you donate to a charity that aims to help a group of people rather than an individual family, you are generally able to receive a deduction. If the charity is not located in the U.S., however, donors will typically not qualify for a deductible.
The best way to avoid fraud, according to the BBB, is to donate to well-known, experienced charities that meet the BBB Standards for Charity Accountability. A list of those charities is available online.
Here is a list of verified places you can donate for Australian fire relief:
Australian Red Cross Disaster Recovery and Relief https://www.redcross.org.au/campaigns/disaster-relief-and-recovery-bushfires
Salvation Army Disaster Appeal https://www.salvationarmy.org.au/donate/make-a-donation/donate-online/?appeal=disasterappeal
St Vincent de Paul Society Bushfire Appeal (NSW) https://donate.vinnies.org.au/appeals-nsw/vinnies-nsw-bushfire-appeal-nsw
NSW Rural Fire Service
NSW RFS Donations Page https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/about-us/sponsorship
NSW RFS Trust Fund or a participating brigade https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/about-us/sponsorship
Port Macquarie Koala Hospital https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-thirsty-koalas-devastated-by-recent-fires
ARC (ANIMAL RESCUE COLLECTIVE) TRC – National Wildlife Bushfire Programhttps://www.gofundme.com/f/rescue-collective-backupfundraise-link/donations/trcqld
Arc Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/animalrescuecollective/